Stress is such a glib word that is bandied about as an explanation for everything but what I want to focus on here, is whether it genuinely affects your weight. I must admit, for a long time I had my doubts but over time, I’ve seen enough to change my mind. Here is a story that may change yours.
A few years ago when I was in the nutrition pack game, I had a male client. When males are very disciplined they tend to lose weight at a far more steady and predictable weekly rate because they are not affected by monthly hormones as women are. This chap was a client for 6 months and each and every week, he bought exactly the same 4 nutrition packs and ate them for the same meal. Every single week this chap lost the same amount of weight – 6 lbs – except on 2 occasions when he lost 3 lbs. The first was when he wrote an exam and realised he hadn’t learnt the right stuff. The second was on the day he got news he had failed that exam. I don’t know what you think but I think that is evidence enough that stress does indeed affect weight loss.
When we become stressed, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol. These can be wonderful hormones which can help us perform at our very best ability and every now and again, they give us super human strength to rescue people from extreme danger. The problem comes when a) they go too high and b) when they don’t get the opportunity to come back down to normal which causes burn out and can affect your body permanently. Cortisol is similar to the steroid cortisone and I’m sure you know what happens to people who take cortisone – they swell up, and exactly the same happens to your body when you are stressed.
Whilst there are events that will happen in our lives that we can’t avoid, there is a lot we can do to make stress management as much a part of our lives as eating and sleeping. Exercise is a great way to bring down the stress hormones. I’m not talking about a full hour on the treadmill – a simple 10 minute walk around the block when you feel the stress rising will help. Do fun stuff! Think back to your childhood and remember what you loved to do for fun and try and bring that back in whether it be a sport, dancing or singing. Start a creative hobby like painting, knitting, sewing, etc. These are right brain activities that will pull your brain out of “I must fix this” mode. Spend time in nature. This changes the stimuli that affect your hearing, seeing, smelling etc and literally gives your brain a little holiday. Then of course there is meditation, hypnosis, yoga and mindfulness, all of which you will find very beneficial.
Remember – 90% of what you stress about will never happen and for the majority of the 10%, there is nothing you can do to change it. So why not let it go and put that energy into enjoying your life?